Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

The history of admissions criteria

Malcolm Gladwell documents the process, link here, by which colleges in the United States (at least) came to embrace “diversity” rather than pure merit as a basis for admission:

In 1905, Harvard College adopted the College Entrance Examination Board tests as the principal basis for admission, which meant that virtually any academically gifted high—school senior who could afford a private college had a straightforward shot at attending.

Previously Harvard had “been the preserve of the New England boarding-school complex known in the admissions world as St. Grottlesex.”  But meritocratic admission changed that. How?

The enrollment of Jews began to rise dramatically. By 1922, they made up more than a fifth of Harvard’s freshman class.

Of course, Harvard was delighted that they were fulfilling their educational mission by picking brighter, more capable students to teach.

Not really.

Gladwell continues.

The administration and alumni were up in arms. Jews were thought to be sickly and grasping, grade-grubbing and insular. They displaced the sons of wealthy Wasp alumni, which did not bode well for fund-raising.

A. Lawrence Lowell, Harvard’s president in the nineteen-twenties, stated flatly that too many Jews would destroy the school: “The summer hotel that is ruined by admitting Jews meets its fate . . . because they drive away the Gentiles, and then after the Gentiles have left, they leave also.”

The solution of Harvard (and others) to this problem is the  “diversity-based” admissions policies of most US universities.

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